For Atari, the Game Isn't Over Yet

J.D. Heath of Waltham, Mass., asks, "Whatever happened to Atari video games?"

Video games zapped into lore in the 1970s. Arcade machines gobbled more quarters than slots and home game systems created millions of couch warriors.

Atari started it all.

The company rolled its first game, Pong, into a California bar in 1972. Founder Nolan Bushnell took the idea of computer-generated games from techie tinkerings and turned it into something people would pay to play. The idea took hold, and the company spent the next 10 years producing games like Asteroids and Pole Position, and developing home game systems.

Mr. Bushnell sold Atari at its peak in 1982 to Warner Communications. Then Warner sold the home games division a year later.

By the early '80s, the Atari craze had cooled and the company faltered amid marketing misjudgments and competition from new giants Nintendo and Sega. Atari emitted its last feeble zap in 1996 when it was sold to JTS Corp.

But last March, Atari was snatched from the cobwebs when a Hasbro Inc. subsidiary purchased the Atari name and intellectual property rights. The company plans to update the classic games and make them compatible with today's gaming systems. The Atari classic, Centipede, will be released next fall.

"There has been a resurgence of interest in the classic video game concept," says Hasbro spokeswoman Dana Henry. "And there's a huge community on the Internet wanting to keep this alive."

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